11/15/15

Link to Findley Duet; Carl and Lee

11/2/15

COME SING WITH US!

Join the Choir of First Presbyterian Church of Three Rivers-Centreville for our annual Christmas concert, Sunday, December 13th at 4pm. We are thrilled to be joined by the wonderful Brandenburg Singers this year, and you are welcome too. If you love to sing in choirs or have always wanted to, please join us! We begin rehearsing Wednesday, November 11th, at 7:45. First Prez is located at 320 N. Main Street in Three Rivers. Sheet music will be provided. Contact Carl (269 381 0796) for more information.

COMING IN DECEMBER:

Bachfest Christmas!, with my latest project, THE WINTER LAMB, featuring the Bach Festival Chorus and the Western Brass Quintet. Please plan to come, and get tickets early, since they sell out fast.

Carl Witt
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church of Three Rivers-Centreville

9/28/15

2. Our resonating bodies.
One of the essential characteristics of singing is the sustaining of pitch. When we talk, we glide mostly unaware through a range of pitches; when we sing, we ‘hone in’ on pitches and sustain them according to the durations indicated by the music. However, there’s more than just pitch happening: we also use our vocal chords and mouth to ‘color’ or ‘flavor’ the pitches. This is called resonance. Different resonances are created by forming the larynx and tongue. Each vowel has its own special resonance—that’s how we identify a particular vowel—and for every vowel we form and sustain on a given pitch our bodies resonate in a particular way. How high or low the pitch is, how ‘closed’ or ‘open’ the vowel is—all these factors effect how our bodies resonate in response to our singing. Leaving the text (this is a huge topic to be discussed later) aside for a moment and only considering the vowels involved, think in how many ways our bodies resonate in response to a typical song or hymn—it’s a whole rainbow of resonances, a shower of sounds.
What happens to our bodies when we sing a certain pitch on a given resonance? Well, it’s a two-way street. To the extent that our bodies (and I mean the whole body, from the toes to the crown of the head) are receptive to and engaged in the production of sound, the tissues soften and become more pliable. Which is to say, our bodies relax. Conversely, the more receptive our bodies are to the production of sound in our vocal mechanism, the greater the resonance, the truer the pitch, the more beautiful and compelling the sound. When our bodies relax, our minds relax; thus, singing can both stimulate and relax the body and the mind. For this reason, I believe it’s important to be careful about the things we sing about because while singing we are in a more receptive state. Next time you are singing a hymn, try focusing on the vowel sounds alone. Notice what your tongue has to do to form the various sounds, and how your body and mind react to that that effort. Just notice, no need to correct anything. Do you feel the sound anywhere particular in your body? Or if you’re self-conscious about singing in front of other people, next time you’re alone choose a pitch in a comfortable range and try sustaining it on different vowels (ah, ee, oh, oo are most common). See if a particular part of your body tingles or vibrates. Who knows, you may be opening up a new awareness of your self and a greater receptivity to God’s Word as it resonates within you.
 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16.

Over the next year I will be offering words on singing and music generally. They will appear periodically on the website and in the newsletter. My hope is that you will find them inspiring and thought-provoking and that you will be encouraged to explore ways by which music can deepen and enrichen your praise of God.

I. The Power of Pitch.

 

What is it about singing that makes it so rich? Let’s start with the notion of pitch. In speech, the voice is constantly shifting pitch, gliding, swooping through a whole spectrum of notes. Depending on the culture in which you were raised, your range of pitch may vary widely. Some languages, like Chinese and Vietnamese, even rely on pitch to determine meaning of words. At any given moment, our speech is pitched–but because the pitches aren’t sustained very long, we don’t perceive the element of pitch. You can try this and see for yourself by saying something out loud, your name for instance, and stopping in mid-phrase and listening to the pitch that you’re on at that moment: sustain that pitch and voilà! you’re singing. OK, so sustained pitch is one thing that makes singing special and different from ordinary speech. What is it about sustaining pitch that does this? I think one important reason is that it has the powerful effect of focusing the mind and sustaining attention. The mind is normally a very noisy place. It’s because the mind’s capacity for attention is like a ping pong ball on a roulette wheel. What sustaining pitch while singing does is to give some weight to that ping pong ball and to slow the speed of the wheel so that the mind and heart become quieter, calmer. Why is this important? Indeed, it is vitally important, because the still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12, Job 4:16) can’t be heard through the racket. Ever get entranced by a sustained pitch, that is to say a drone, in the environment? a lawnmower in the distance, the hum of the dishwasher, a fan? It can have the same calming, grounding effect. In Eastern cultures, particularly Hinduism, the power of the drone has long been recognized for its concentrative effect. Just think of the “OM” sound.

So—if, through listening to, or better yet, singing sustained pitches or tones we find our mind settling down a bit, then what? If our concentration is an iota clearer, what is it that singing helps us concentrate on? We’ll look at this next time.

 

 

 

 

*****

 

COMING IN DECEMBER:

 

Bachfest Christmas!, with my latest project, THE WINTER LAMB, featuring the Bach Festival Chorus and the Western Brass Quintet. Please plan to come, and get tickets early, since they sell out fast.

 

Carl Witt

Director of Music

First Presbyterian Church of Three Rivers-Centreville

269 381 0796